When you buy a football club as a personal playpen, somewhere to wander in and out of whenever the whim takes you, there is a very good chance a lot of the toys are going to be smashed.
In the the case of Roman Abramovich and what might be described laughably as his stewardship of Chelsea, most of the playthings are human, which, in the wake of the misconceived adventure starring Andre Villas-Boas, has to make you wonder how long the casualty list will become before the oligarch tires of a futile game.
No one wants to see the hand-wringing humiliation suffered by Villas-Boas these last few months, but then sympathy for the latest victim has to be somewhat muted when you also consider the fate of those vastly more experienced football men who went before him without any airy, guileless talk of being involved in some bulletproof "project" to be completed in its own sweet time.
Someone like Carlo Ancelotti, chopped down by Abramovich's minions in a back corridor at Everton last spring after a career filled with distinction both on and off the field. Or World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was plainly doomed from the moment he issued a public analysis of the competitive integrity of the dressing room, which yesterday added Villas-Boas's scalp to its belt.
Or the most fundamental error of all, undermining Jose Mourinho once it became clear that his aura outstripped Abramovich's at Stamford Bridge by some distance.
Abramovich wanted his football club as the latest evidence of his extraordinary success, something to place alongside the super yachts and the masterpieces of art and all the other symbols of extraordinary wealth. He wanted to bask in the glow of football success, something so close to the heartbeat of so many ordinary people across the world. He wanted to make his mark and no one can say that he hasn't done that. Unfortunately, it is one that signifies someone who has a capacity to get it wrong, out of ego, impatience, a failure to understand the basics of what constitutes a winning football club, and – perhaps most fundamentally – a failure to grasp that such an organisation will always depend on the spirit and the commitment and the good faith of all those other human beings involved.
Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba and all may have their strengths and their weaknesses and their foibles – and certainly it is hard not to believe that their reaction to Villas-Boas and his slender experience in the top flight of football and his total lack of it as a professional player has not been a factor in his downfall – but apart from anything else they have their own fears and uncertainties about the future.
They are not clockwork items you can wind up and then so easily wind down. This, it seems, largely escaped Villas-Boas at a time of huge upheaval in their careers – and maybe it will never dawn on the businessman who has dealt such mayhem in the lives of some of his most distinguished football employees.
There doesn't seem a lot of point in dwelling on the accumulation of miscalculations, only to hammer the central point that if you don't understand something, you are going to have as much difficulty identifying a problem as you will solving it.
If Abramovich retains much of an appetite at Chelsea, what does he do? The most persuasive option screams out. It is to own up to his folly and accept back Mourinho, the man whose work has so consistently mocked the Chelsea operation since he moved to Internazionale and Real Madrid. This is probably not what Abramovich ever had in mind, but who knows? When you own so many roubles there is maybe a chance that one of them will finally drop.Reuse content